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Philippe Parreno: My Room Is Another Fish Bowl

Algerian-born French artist Philippe Parreno creates spaces that speculate on alternate worlds or states of being. He conceives his installations not as collections of images or sculptures but as stagelike, a mise-en-scène where a series of events unfold. My Room Is Another Fish Bowl consists of floating helium-filled fish shapes intended to redefine the relationship between subject and object: the experience of museum visitors is both equated and contrasted with that of the fish moving aimlessly within the gallery.

In art and words, Parreno has frequently posed the question: is an exhibition a film without a camera? In this installation, the artist casts museumgoers to move within the gallery space among a specified number of floating objects delicately weighted to hang in the air at various heights. And still, the script is loose, and much is left to chance. The fish move with the gallery’s air currents, visitors enter and depart, and natural light from adjacent windows shifts continually based on time of day and weather conditions. The “film” lasts the length of the exhibition run, and no amount of time spent within the space could produce an identical view.

As a recurring theme in his work, Parreno entertains the possibility of animism: that objects might have an inner life, spirit, or agency. Since 1992 the artist has engaged a philosophical category called the “quasi-object,” which challenges the common belief that the world is neatly divided into two realms—the “human” sphere of language and culture, and the “external” world of factual objects. These drifting Mylar fish forms are neither social nor natural, acting instead as “quasi-objects” that transform the viewers’ relationship to space and perception of the passage of time.